April 19, 2001
Digest: (1) A judge may be appointed to and serve on the board of trustees of a local library organized as a private not-for-profit corporation even if the appointment is subject to confirmation by vote of the library members. (2) A newly-elected judge wearing judicial robes may administer oaths to new officers of a political club at its meeting, provided that the meeting takes place during the Window Period.
Rule: 22 NYCRR 100.0(Q); 100.4(C)(3)(a)(ii); 100.5(A)(1)(g); 100.5(A)(2); 100.5(B);Opinions 97-104 (Vol. XVI); 97-35 (Vol. XV); 97-25 (Vol. XV); 96-59 (Vol. XIV); 95-02 (Vol. XIII); 94-15 (Vol. XII); 90-2 (Vol. V).
A recently-elected judge asks whether it is permissible to serve on the board of trustees of a local library, which is organized as a private not-for-profit corporation. The judge's appointment must be confirmed by vote of the library members during an annual membership meeting. The library members comprise library card holders who reside within a certain geographic area.
The Committee notes that a judge must resign from judicial office upon becoming a candidate for elective nonjudicial office, either in a primary or in a general election. 22 NYCRR 100.5(B). In the Committee’s view, this rule does not preclude the judge from serving on the board of trustees of the library because the election to the board is neither a primary nor general election. The election is in the nature of a confirmation of an appointment and is limited to library members. To the extent that it is not an election involving the public at-large, it may thus be likened to an election to a parochial school board. See Opinion 97-104 (Vol. XVI). Further, this view is consistent with an earlier opinion in which the Committee concluded that a judge may be elected to a local library board. Opinion 90-2 (Vol. V). But, although the judge may serve as a member of the board of trustees of the library, he or she may not personally participate in the solicitation of funds on the library's behalf or in other fund-raising activities. The judge may, however, be involved in planning fund-raising activities. 22 NYCRR 100.4(C)(3)(a)(ii). Additionally, we note that with respect to serving on a library board, the Committee has previously advised that a judge should not be engaged in lobbying efforts or in seeking to influence legislation affecting the library. Opinions 96-59 (Vol. XIV), 95-02 (Vol. XIII).
The judge also asks whether it is permissible to attend a regular or fund-raising meeting of a political club that will take place after the judge’s election, but during the judge’s “Window Period,” to administer oaths of office to the club’s newly elected officers. If the judge may attend such an event, the judge asks whether it is permissible to wear a judge’s robe while administering the oaths of office.
Judges are prohibited from attending political gatherings, except that a judge seeking election or re-election may attend politically sponsored functions during the “Window Period” specified in section 100.0(Q) of the Rules Governing Judicial Conduct. 22 NYCRR 100.5(A) (1)(g) and (2). The Window Period begins nine months before designation of a party candidate for judicial office and ends six months after the date of election. Thus, so long as the political organization’s meeting occurs within the appropriate Window Period, the judge may attend and administer oaths to the organization’s newly elected officers. Opinions 97-35 (Vol. XV), 97-25 (Vol. XV), 94-15 (Vol. XII). And, the Committee believes that it is not improper for the judge to wear a judicial robe while administering oaths of office.